Community Journalism, Writing

There’s Nothing Like a Good Cause

Well, I took a little break.

Union County High School’s GSA is on good footing these days, but things were touch-and-go for a little while. Shortly after the club had its first meeting of the school year, we received word that the new sponsor, a guidance counselor, decided she could not sponsor the club. But, after a tense day or so, Stuart Turner, the sponsor the students wanted, was allowed to take over.

When last I heard, the club’s president was working on meeting twice a month and after school.

Time for some reflection. This ain’t my first rodeo. I’m a sucker for a good cause. Some I’ve won and some I’ve lost. It’s a pattern of behavior, and not one I’m likely to give up anytime soon.

In college journalism classes, you hear a lot about being impartial, about not taking a side. But my first job as a journalist was under someone whose guiding philosophy was that a newspaper should drive the community forward. You could call this advocacy journalism. You could also call it poor ethics. Call it what you will, permission to crusade was granted, and crusade I did.

So, if you’re ready, jump in the Wayback Machine with me to my days as a cub reporter and causes I have known.

REACHS story, part 1, Union County Shopper-News

REACHS story part 2, Union County Shopper-News

Sincere apologies for poor picture quality.

I had been on the job at the Shopper-News for a year when publisher Sandra Clark shoved me out the door to start a Shopper in Union County. I covered news, sold ads, delivered papers, and practically ran ruts in the highway between Halls Crossroads and the Union County seat of Maynardville.

This cause landed in my lap during a County Commission meeting. The county was going to evict REACHS, now known as the Union County Children’s Center, with no discussion of what the center actually did.

I knew what they did. I’d just graduated from Leadership Union County, and we had toured the center as part of one of our class days. There at REACHS, children who had been abused could receive evidence-gathering examinations and counseling in a non-threatening setting. And the center was about to be tossed out on its ear.

After the commission meeting, I angrily approached a commissioner of my acquaintance.

“Do you even know what REACHS does?!” I exclaimed.

He laughed and replied, “REACHS? I thought they said Ritchie.” He later told me he was joking, but whatever. As they say today, it was on like Donkey Kong.

I wrote the above story while I should have been in sick in bed. The community’s outcry caused the commission to reverse its decision and lease the space to REACHS for just $1 per year. I still have the thank-you note from REACHS in my clippings book. It’s a treasure.

REACHS conclusion, Union County Shopper-News

I never got a thank-you note for the next one, but it’s still one of my favorites.

Smoking story, Union County Shopper-News

County seat, Maynardville, Tennessee. Maynardville is a small municipality that contains a water company and police and fire departments. I started covering meetings of the Board of Commissioners around 2006-2007, and the fact that the meetings were “smoking”…well, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

This isn’t in the article, but I was at the time and still am a former smoker. In the misspent days of my youth, I was a pack a day. So, believe me when I say that the smoke in that courthouse on meeting nights rivaled all the bars I’d ever been to.

After this article came out, the commissioners made the building non-smoking, and I was treated to a fun scene at the next meeting. One of the commissioners (a non-smoker) lobbed a value-pack of Juicy Fruit gum down the table at his colleagues. In an unintended-consequences turn of events, meetings started lasting longer because the commissioners took smoke breaks.

I guess you win some, you lose some.

2 thoughts on “There’s Nothing Like a Good Cause”

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